Born and raised in Paterson, NJ, Bernard David Jones started acting and singing in church. Today he can be seen every week on ABC’s The Mayor. I caught up with the talented rising star to talk about how he fell in love with acting, the hit show and why it’s so important to today’s audiences.
When were you first bit by the acting bug?
It came pretty early for me when I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I started out in the church and I remember singing my first solo in front of the church and feeling like ‘This is it!’ I went from singing in the choir to being in the Christmas and Easter productions to a performing arts high school and eventually on to Morehouse in Atlanta.
When did you decide acting was going to be more than a hobby—that it was something you wanted to pursue vocationally?
Growing up, my parents allowed us to explore many things. I did gymnastics, I wanted to be a veterinarian at one point, I played sports too, but when I stepped on stage and felt that overwhelming satisfaction of being up there, I knew that was what my life would be. While I was at my performing arts high school, I realized I could actually make a living doing what I love to do. So I got my degree and I made the commitment early on that I would work at this and even if it meant I had to get my break at 40 like Morgan Freeman, then that’s what I would do.
How has The Mayor challenged you as an actor?
This is my first series regular role. I’ve been on TV before but this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to create a character and sustain that character—to maintain who that person is. The challenge has been making sure each week that I’m bringing the same guy but adding levels to him. I’m figuring out what this guy is like in all situations as opposed to only being on one episode, doing one thing as a character and then moving on.
What’s the process of bringing a new show to life?
It’s been extremely rewarding. It’s a brand new show and the concept is amazing. When I first read the script, I realized this was something great and something important. It’s important for the African-American community that a story like this is being told.
Well along that line, what do you hope audiences take away from the show?
I hope audiences first come to our show with an open mind. We are talking about issues that affect our community and we are coming at it with a non-partisan lens. It’s not a democratic perspective, not a republican perspective, but a people perspective. I hope it activates some sort of mobility and civic responsibility in people. If you want to run for public office or be president of the student body, I hope it sparks that in you.
So far, what has been the most surprising thing about doing this show?
I spend more time at work than I do at my own home. I’m learning new things about myself. I’m learning I need to take time to sleep and make sure I’m eating. Being on the show as a regular, there’s more responsibility to promote the show and promote yourself—those are the other things that are outside of the art that you don’t learn in acting school.
Outside the show, what other projects do you have currently in the mix?
I’m also a content creator. I’m producing and acting in a web series called, Who Is Amanda James? starring myself, Bianca Ashley and Catherine Mersereau. I’m also working on some music which has been a blessing in that our show is very musical. So it’s been cool to get to work on all of that too.